Start to Finish: 2 hours to 10 weeks
Difficulty Level: Intermediate
Cider is juice that has not been filtered to remove particles of fruit. Making pear cider is just like creating apple cider. It is even common for homemade ciders to contain pear-apple blends to add depth of flavor or to achieve the requisite volumes of fruit juice for the recipes. Substituting apples or apple juice for up to 25 percent of the recommended volume of pears in this recipe -- adapted from the National Center for Home Food Preservation -- can give your cider a more complex taste while keeping the pear flavor prominent. Ferment the fresh-squeezed beverage for 2 to 10 weeks to create “hard” pear cider.
Unseasoned Pear Cider
- 18 pounds fresh pears
Spiced Pear Cider
- 18 pounds fresh pears
- 2 to 6 cinnamon sticks
- 1 whole nutmeg or 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Fermented "Hard" Pear Cider
- 18 pounds fresh pears
- 1 to 1 1/2 pounds honey or granulated sugar
- 1 packet cider yeast
Prepare Unseasoned Pear Cider
Sanitize a 1-gallon glass jar or bottle -- or multiple glass jars and bottles with a combined capacity of 1 gallon -- in hot, soapy water. Rinse and dry the glass thoroughly to remove any traces of soap.
Remove cores, stems and seeds from the pears. Trim away any bruised, discolored or damaged spots on the fruit flesh with a paring knife. Cut the pears into smaller pieces. Leave the skin intact.
Transfer a portion of the pears to a device that can reduce them to pulp, such as a blender or food processor. The volume of pear pieces in each “portion” should be dictated by the capacity of your device.
Process the fruit until it is a juicy pulp. The consistency does not need to be uniform, but it should not be chunkier than applesauce. Transfer the pulverized portion of fruit with juice to a large bowl while crushing the remaining pear pieces. Continue processing the fruit until all of the pieces have been rendered to pulp.
Scoop a portion of the pear pulp into a muslin sack or jelly bag. Squeeze juice from the bagged pulp over a large bowl or pitcher. Wring the fruit-filled cloth as tight as you can to extract the maximum volume of juice. Some particles of pear pulp may pass through the material with the juice, which is fine.
Discard the pulp when you cannot squeeze any more juice from it. Refill the sack or bag with another scoop of pulp, repeating the process until you have juiced all of the crushed pears. Eighteen pounds of pears should yield about 1 gallon of pear cider.
Crush pear pieces and squeeze juice out of the pulp with a fruit press or cider press if you have one available. You can use a clean cotton pillowcase instead of a muslin sack or jelly bag, if necessary.
Pasteurize the Cider
Transfer pear cider to a large stock pot to pasteurize the liquid before you bottle it. Fresh-squeezed cider can contain illness-causing contaminants, such as E. coli or Salmonella.
Heat the cider to at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Gauge the temperature with a food thermometer. Do not allow the liquid to exceed 185 degrees F. The hotter the liquid becomes, the more likely it is to develop a “cooked” flavor.
Skim off any foam that develops while you heat the cider. Keep it at or above 160 degrees F for about 5 to 10 minutes before removing it from the heat.
Pour the liquid into sanitized glass jars or bottles if you want plain, unfermented cider. Refrigerate the bottled cider immediately.
Store boiled cider in glass canning jars, then process the jarred cider in a boiling water canner if you want to keep the cider at room temperature for a prolonged period of time (up to 1 year). Refrigerate canned cider as soon as you open the jar.
Season Cider to Create a Spiced Beverage
Leave pasteurized cider in the stock pot if you want to season it to make a spiced drink. Reduce the heat to low.
Place cinnamon sticks and nutmeg in a coffee filter or clean cheesecloth. Pull the edges of the filter or cheesecloth together to form a pouch or sachet of spices. Secure the pouch with a piece of kitchen twine.
Place the spice sachet in the stock pot. Heat the cider on low for 2 to 4 hours.
Remove and discard the sachet. Transfer the spiced cider to sanitized jars or bottles for immediate refrigeration, or serve it immediately.
Ferment Hard Cider
Leave pasteurized plain cider in the stock pot to sweeten it before bottling it for fermentation.
- Dissolve 1 cup of honey or granulated sugar in the cider to make a “dry” or not-very-sweet beverage.
- Dissolve 1 1/2 cups of honey or sugar in the cider to make a sweet beverage.
Transfer pasteurized plain cider to a large sanitized glass jar or bottle with a narrow opening, similar to a 1-gallon milk jug. Leave at least 1 cup of empty space in the jar, even if you have to discard 1 cup of cider to make room.
Add 1 packet of cider yeast to the container. Insert a glass airlock -- also known as a "curlicue glass stopper” -- into the opening of the container. It should be snug enough to remain upright, but don’t force it down to make it exceptionally tight. The airlock allows gas to escape as the cider ferments and blocks oxygen and bacteria from entering.
Store the container in a cool, dark environment for about 2 weeks at room temperature (about 70 degrees F is ideal). The cider will become foamy as it ferments. It’s fine if foam escapes from the container. Just wipe it off the glass.
Transfer the cider to another sanitized container once it stops generating foam, after about 2 weeks. Leave the dead yeast -- which should have sunk to the bottom of the jar -- in the original container so it doesn’t affect the flavor of the beverage. Seal the new container with the airlock.
Store the fermented cider in a 65 degree F environment for up to 8 weeks to age it. Aging hard cider isn’t necessary, but it yields a deeper, more rounded flavor.
Refrigerate cider once it reaches the age you desire. Consume it within 24 hours of opening it for optimal flavor.
Store fermented or “hard” pear cider in sturdy glass containers. Bottles made for holding fizzy or carbonated beverages are preferable because they tend to be slightly thicker than average glass vessels. The gases that develop during fermentation can cause thinner glass to break.
Tips for Ingredients: Pear Types and Additional Spices
Choose a pear variety or blend of varieties that are juicy and not exceptionally firm. Bartlett, Taylor’s Gold and Comice pears are all juicy varieties. Firmer, less juicy pears are acceptable, but may require more work or greater volumes of whole fruit.
Substitute store-bought plain pear cider -- which may be labeled “unfiltered pear juice” -- to save time if you're making spiced pear cider or hard cider. Farmer's markets are also worthwhile sources for fresh pear cider.
- Choose pear cider or juice that is preservative-free if you're making hard cider. Preservatives will prevent fermentation, which is the process that transforms cider into hard cider.
- Select pasteurized cider or juice if you plan to ferment it. Pasteurization should eliminate any wild yeast particles that could interfere with the cider yeast added to the liquid.
Allspice, cardamom, cloves, ginger, orange and vanilla also complement pears, cinnamon and nutmeg. Star anise and juniper berries would impart unexpected flavors that are also complementary. Include additional flavorings in the spice sachet if desired:
- Add 6 to 10 whole allspice.
- Use 6 to 8 crushed cardamom pods.
- Include 8 to 12 whole cloves.
- Add a 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced.
- Use strips of fresh orange peel -- only the orange part of the peel.
- Include 1 split vanilla bean pod.
- Add 2 to 6 star anise.
- Use 4 to 6 dried juniper berries.
Limit your seasoning blend to four or fewer ingredients to avoid having too many competing flavors.
Garnish a mug of spiced cider with a cinnamon stick, dusting of nutmeg, curl of orange peel or head of star anise.